Editorial Notes

Is Pyongyang near implosion?: The Korea Herald

An underwater test-firing of a strategic submarine ballistic missile is seen in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
An underwater test-firing of a strategic submarine ballistic missile is seen in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). PHOTO: REUTERS

In its editorial on Aug 26, the paper hopes that President Park's shift in stance on North Korea and unification is not because of political considerations.

South Korean President Park Geun Hye's policy on North Korea - and more broadly, unification - has been built on "trustpolitik", which calls for the two Koreas to build trust through engagement and cooperation so that they can eventually achieve unity. 

The President's flagship policy, however, has lost much of its charm, as the Kim Jong Un regime has kept conducting nuclear tests and missile launches. 

The harsh UN-led sanctions on the North over its latest nuclear and missile provocations and the consequent heightening of tensions on the peninsula also show that Ms Park's initiative for the trust-building process remains only in name. 

The defiant Kim Jong Un regime irked neighbours once again by test-firing a submarine-launched ballistic missile on Wednesday (Aug 24), which is believed to have been successful. 

So it should not come as a surprise that Ms Park no longer mentions the trust-building initiative and makes no secret of a change in her stance on North Korea. The most palpable change is that she now sees a high possibility of an implosion in North Korea that could lead to a reunified peninsula. 

Ms Park now openly says that there are signs of a growing unrest in North Korean society. She said in a security meeting this week that North Korean society is showing "serious cracks", even among its elite. 

Ms Park did not elaborate, but it was apparent that she was referring to cases like the recent defection of Mr Thae Yong Ho, the No. 2 diplomat in the North Korean Embassy in London, to South Korea. 

On Liberation Day, Ms Park addressed part of her speech to low-ranking officials and ordinary citizens, speaking about a vision for a unified Korea. 

"Unification will provide you with new opportunities to reach the fullest of your abilities and pursue happiness without any discrimination and disadvantages," she said. 

One can easily guess that Ms Park had in mind Mr Thae's case, which the Unification Ministry made public two days later. 

It is nothing new for South Korean leaders and officials to say that in dealing with North Korea, South Korea and the international community should separate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and core members of his repressive regime from the rest of the country's population. 

The tone of Ms Park's Liberation Day address, however, indicates that the President believes that despite the threat from the North's growing nuclear and missile prowess, North Korea is in a danger of imminent collapse and unification is near. 

Is it really so? Does the President have more convincing information and intelligence reports other than the series of high-profile defections of North Koreans? Or is she rushing to an impetuous judgement or exaggerating the situation in the North out of political motives?

Ms Park's opponents criticise her for trying to fan a sense of crisis regarding the North to boost her political position at a time when she faces formidable challenges such as overcoming resistance to the deployment of an advanced US missile defence system. 

Ms Park's predecessors - like their North Korean counterparts - used to exploit security issues for personal political gain. We hope that Ms Park's new stance on the North, especially the possibility of its implosion, has nothing to do with this bad tradition.